Monday, July 27, 2009

Empowerment and Snails

When I was about ten my dad had a brief stint with snail farming in our back yard. I came home one day and found a snail making a courageous escape and sneaking away. I later commented about it to my dad. “I’m letting it go,” he said. “If it was able to figure out a way to escape, I’m rewarding it.”

This way of thinking has stuck with me. This anecdote doesn’t translate as smoothly to the framework of my agency except that I translate it to clients being encouraged to feel empowered and take initiative. It’s true there’s no doubt our clients are survivors and take action to help themselves. If not through a network of friends or acquaintances it may very well be through our agency. But because we have limited resources it’s tough for us to become someone’s sole resource of support, especially when it comes to being relied on exclusively for needs like food or transportation. So in this sense initiative may be as simple as a client going out of his way to find help from other resources. Last week a client showed me a map he got from another case manager with a location circled on it for a food pantry. He told me he was going there that day to get a food bag. Now the question is, would I be inclined to want to help him more should he come to our agency and ask for a food bag in the future based on me knowing he took these extra steps? It's hard at times to be objective. There are a lot of variables.

1 comment:

enlighteningthedarkness said...

Another option might be to refer him to other pantries that he could get to. If he's already tried those pantries, then give him food from your agency. This way, you're encouraging him to reach out to other resources so he's not dependent on your agency. Also, it allows you to have more food set aside for those who aren't able to get to pantries, for whatever reason.